With the transition to Division I, many of the aspects of the university have been changed or at least tweaked in some way. One department that has had a lot of changes occur is the athletics department. From recruiting rules to new opponents and a whole new conference, the athletics program has shifted entirely from what it was as a member of Division II.
In NKU’s first year of Division I, the sports teams as a whole performed relatively well. Men’s cross country finished sixth out of 10 teams in the Atlantic Sun Conference and the women finished eighth out of 10; that is also their rankings going into this season.
“The men’s team has a relatively young team with only one senior,” cross country Head Coach Steve Kruse said. “The guys have come in this season in really good shape from the summer and they are ready to go and it won’t take more than a couple meets to get in our stride. On both men’s and women’s teams, we are looking to improve on our initial ranking.”
The men’s cross country team had a breakout sophomore runner last year in J.J. Webber. He is individually ranked second as a returner in the A-Sun.
“It’s looking really good for the cross country team this season,” Don Owen, sports information director, said. “When we can compete in postseason, everyone is going to continue to compete better and recruit better. Everyone has to be a little patient in transition to D-I.”
Volleyball also had a record-breaking season last year. The team won 25 games within the conference and D-I. They are the first team nationwide to ever win that many games while in the transition from D-II to D-I, according to Owen.
“We have a tough preseason schedule; we’re playing Michigan and Purdue,” volleyball Head Coach Liz Hart, said. “It will prepare us for the A-Sun. We’re currently ranked sixth out of 10 teams in the conference. We’re looking forward to seeing our competition, learning and progressing throughout the season.”
The men’s golf team is ranked ninth out of 10 teams and the women’s team is ranked tenth in the preseason standings in the A-Sun. The women’s and men’s tennis teams are both ranked ninth out of nine teams. The men’s soccer team is ranked seventh out of nine teams, and the women’s is ranked eighth out of 10 teams.
One of the biggest changes the teams are having to face is traveling more, which has resulted in a cost increase, according to Owen.
“The teams are traveling much further obviously,” Owen said. “In D-II we went everywhere by bus, but now we are spending some time in the airport. There are a lot of great things being a part of this D-I conference, but travel is such a huge difference; the teams are going to be flying and going to different places. It’s a big change for everybody.”